Suicidal Ideation Among Transgender and Gender Expansive Youth: Mechanisms of Risk

Rachel C. Garthe, Allyson M. Blackburn, Amandeep Kaur, Jesus N. Sarol, Jacob Goffnett, Agnes Rieger, Crystal Reinhart, Douglas Cary Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Suicide is a leading public health concern among transgender and gender expansive adolescents, although little research has examined mechanisms through which gender identity is associated with suicidal ideation. This study examined the indirect effects of peer victimization, dating violence, substance use (SU), SU problems, and depressive symptoms in the relationship between gender identity and suicidal ideation. Methods: Secondary data analysis was conducted from a 2018 statewide survey, including 4464 adolescents who identified as male, female, transgender, or gender expansive (n=1116 per gender). The sample was frequency matched on grade, race, geographic region, and free/reduced lunch status. Mediation analyses were performed. Results: Reports of suicidal ideation were highest among transgender (49.29%) and gender expansive (41.31%) adolescents compared with male (10.82%) and female adolescents (19.08%). Using the Karlson, Holm, and Breen approach, 50.45% of the effect of being transgender on suicidal ideation was mediated through peer victimization, dating violence, and depressive symptoms, and 39.29% through SU, SU problems, and depressive symptoms. The mediation through the same pathways for being gender expansive was 46.37% and 39.89%, respectively. Across both models, depressive symptoms predominately accounted for the mediating effect. Conclusion: Transgender and gender expansive youth are at alarming risk for suicidal ideation, which illustrates the critical need for suicide prevention within this population. Programs that promote mental health and work to prevent bullying, dating violence, SU, and SU problems are crucial; although longitudinal research is needed, targeting these mechanisms may play a critical role in reducing suicidal ideation and risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-422
Number of pages7
JournalTransgender Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • nonbinary gender identity
  • substance use
  • suicide
  • transgender
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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